Personal Must-Haves in the Data Center

Posted on May 3, 2011

When you go into the data center, either for rack’n’stack or maintenance, there are a couple of things that can make your life easier.  You want to go light, of course, but also have everything you need so that your not going to have to post-pone work due to lack of gear.

Common must-haves include:

  • A very capable laptop.  This is your primary tool.  I prefer to 15″ MacBook Pro, but whatever you use you’ll want gigabit ethernet, wifi, serial capabilities, etc, etc.
  • An RS-232 serial to USB adapter.  I use a Keytronics adapter with my Mac.  For software I use the Keyspan Serial Assistant and ZTerm.
  • Several different serial cables and gender benders.
  • A good bag.  I prefer the Ogio Hip-Hop or Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 but many like backpacks or other types of Messanger bags.

But those are boring essentials… here are my not-as-normal must-haves.

1. Leatherman Skeletool CX Multitool

The perfect evolution of the Leatherman. The CX is made from carbon fiber and is extremely light, but feels solid. I love the Carabiner which I clip to my front belt loops, which means its not on some sheath I’ll loose or in my pocket scratching my phone. Clipped in front I forget that its there, its that light. It also has a pocket clip if you prefer.

The blade is excellent and it has all the right features. The universal bit driver is great if you want to carry an optional sheath with a variety of bits, but on the tool there is a single storage slot, which means you always have 2 bits (dual sided) on the tool at all times.

The only downside to the tool is that because it is so light and small that if you take if off your person you can easily forget it. I did this once and went nuts until I got another one a week later.

2. Contigo Autoseal 16oz Mug

Everyone knows that liquid is forbidden in the data center. Everyone also knows that its hard to enforce and rarely is. Never the less, no one wants to let you do it and no one wants to cause a problem. Furthermore, coffee in a Starbucks paper cup goes cold due to HVAC in the data center in 15-20 minutes.

The Contigo mug is the best coffee mug I’ve ever seen. It feels good in your hands, good to drink from, and fits easily into your bag. But most importantly, it is completely split proof. It is the only coffee mug I’ve ever trusted so much that I would put it inside my bag. It keeps your coffee hot and won’t spill… what more can you want? If I’m warned by others in the data center I will take it and flip it in the air and catch it, just to show how solid it is.

$20 is a lot for a coffee mug, but its worth it. I have 6.

3. Contigo Autoseal 24oz Waterbottle

This is somewhat redundant, but when your in the DC for a long time, you need water. A refillable water container is best. The Contigo Autoseal is just as robust as the mug, but adds an excellent clip that allows you to attach it to your bag.

I should also note that the flow from both the mug and the water bottle is really good, unlike many others. You get a solid gulp, unlike drinking from a straw.

4. Apple iPhone 4

The iPhone is the ultimate tool. Take photos of servers or critical screens, take walk-around movies or record screens for later review, listen to music, make calls, send email, etc, etc, etc. Working in the DC is definitely much improved thanks to the iPhone 4.

5. IntelliScanner Pro 200 Barcode Scanner

For all the great things that the iPhone can do, its various bar-code reader applications are horrible. They certainly aren’t quick and they have trouble with small barcodes. The IntelliScanner is easy to use and fast. Your laptop will register it as a keyboard, so when you press the button to scan the contents of the barcode are “typed in” where ever you like, which means you can use it with Excel just as easily as my prefered auditing format, CSV’s created in vi. 😉